Cover image for Bloodlines
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, c1992.
Physical Description:
271 p.


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Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Conant ( Gone to the Dogs ) turns crusader in her energetic sixth dog-lover's mystery. Dog expert Holly Winter, the winsome narrator, can't resist passing along advice to dog lovers, whether on choosing an appropriate breed or on purchasing L. L. Bean Wellingtons (``the world's only genuinely waterproof boots . . . the best two-footed friend a dog walker ever had''). This missionary spirit is quickly kindled when a fellow dog lover tells her that a local pet shop is selling a malamute that appears to have been obtained from a puppy mill. Through Holly, Conant decries the cruel and inhumane treatment dogs receive at such breeding factories and urges readers to boycott retailers that do business with them. To Holly, animal abuse is tantamount to a capital offense, so she wastes no time mourning when the pet-shop owner is murdered, but she investigates the crime for the sake of the affected animals. Mafia bosses, animal rights activists, apparently reputable breeders and still more puppy mills figure in her detection. Suspense is tighter here than in many previous Conant mysteries, and her polemics add a welcome bite. Paws up. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

The real, tragic fact of puppy mills--breeding operations for the sale of pedigreed puppies to (mainly) pet shops, where breeding dogs in cages, in often wretched conditions, bear litter after litter--is the background for Conant's sixth dog-centered mystery (Gone to the Dogs, p. 571), which--in spite of the target subject- -is, again, lively, funny, and (to dog people) absolute Premium. This time out, Holly Winter, owner and adorer of two grand malamutes, sleuths to unravel pedigreed dog bloodlines--and to uncover the all-too-common incursions of greedy puppy-mill owners into the products of the reputable breeder. Oh, yes, there are also two murders, but the victims are (from a dog person's point of view) pond scum, so the reader is wholeheartedly with Holly as she gives her major attention to the problem of rescuing a purloined malamute and other doomed animals. Holly's detective work, superb dog-wise, is a bit casual on the murders, but who cares? Certainly not Conant's readers, who- -with ears up and alert eye--eagerly await her next.



1       I was writing a story about a tattoo artist in Newport, Rhode Island, who specializes in engraving dead-likeness portraits of dogs on the bodies of their owners. Her professional name--maybe even her real name--is Sally Brand, and she got started in dogs because she was tired of cover-ups.   Cover-ups? Seaman First Class Jack Doe comes home with "Jack and Jill Forever" freshly and painfully emblazoned on his forearm, only to discover that Jill's deserted him or that the one he really loves isn't Jill after all but the inconveniently polysyllabic Millicent. The tattoo's a misfit, right? What he needs is a cover-up. So Sally would update Jill to Millicent, which can't have been easy; or if the sailor had soured on love, she'd incorporate the entire original tattoo into the head of a black panther, which, Sally tells me, will camouflage anything; or, in the case of an unabashedly narcissistic Jack Doe, she'd cover up the and Jill with a pair of frolicking dolphins or an ebony-black-ink rococo anchor, thus leaving only the reliably apt "Jack Forever."   One night, though, when yet another sailor strolled into Sally Brand's storefront parlor and asked her to immortalize yet one more transitory human relationship on his upper back, Sally finally wised up and asked, "Hey, fella, you happen to own a dog?" So the guy pulled out his wallet and produced a photo of a Dalmatian with the unimaginative name of Spot. Sally'd done lots of Rottweilers and Dobermans before, but the images had been more or less generic. The head of Spot was her first real portrait. The rest is tattoo history. Human relationships are only skin deep. They're laborious, painful, and expensive to correct. But with dogs? With dogs, there are no misfits.   I first heard of Sally Brand at Crane's Beach, where I saw her work on the heavily muscled chest of a top handler named Larry Wilson, whose tattooed brace of Obedience Trial Champion black standard poodles not only looked just like the originals but even wagged their tails when he flexed his pectorals.   I was so crazy about the idea that I originally had only one question: Where? Rowdy is my right hand, after all, so that seemed like a good idea. But what about Kimi? Both of them? That felt better: two Alaskan malamutes, one on each upper arm, forever eyeing one another across my breasts. Then the guilt set in. What if Vinnie happened to peer down from above? Never having missed a thing on this earth, Vinnie could hardly be expected to over look the sudden appearance of a sled dog on each of my biceps and the simultaneous nonappearance of a golden retriever bitch anywhere on my body. How could I explain it to her? Sorry, Vinnie, but there just wasn't room for everyone? I mean, how do you tell the best obedience dog you'll ever own that she got edged out by a pair of malamutes, for God's sake? So I could hardly leave Vinnie out. Off. Not to mention Danny or Cookie or any of the others, even poor Rafe, who was terrified of everything, especially needles.   As I sat at the kitchen table writing up the notes of my interview with Sally Brand, I was still trying to decide where and also worrying about who and how many. Then the phone rang, thus probably saving me from becoming the first tattooed lady ever exhibited by the American Kennel Club.   Four or five times a year, I pick up the receiver to discover that someone's dialed my number by mistake. This call, though, was definitely for me: It was about a dog--not just any dog, either, but an Alaskan malamute.   "Holly?"   Holly Winter. Kute with a k, right? Welcome to purebred dogdom. And, no, the two litters whelped just before mine weren't Samoyeds or malamutes or anything else Christmasy. They were golden retrievers, but, yes, of course: December. Woof woof. Let me reassure you, though, and while I'm at it, let me remind myself: Although I'm a member in good standing of the Dog Writers' Association of America, this is not one of those tales--doubtless spelled t-a-i-l-s--told from the dog's point of view. I don't object to the dog's point of view, of course; I just don't know what it is. Although I've spent most of my life trying to imagine it, I still see it only through a glass, darkly, which is to say that, from what I can discern, it is remarkably like God's face. Anyway, I admitted to being myself.   My caller was Barbara Doyle. You know her? Well, if you show your dogs, you've seen Barbara. She has shepherds. (Foreigner? German shepherd dogs. Good ones, too.) She's a few years older than I am, I think--maybe in her midthirties?--and she's kind of frail and romantic looking. We train together at the Cambridge Dog Training Club.   "I happened to be at Puppy Luv this morning," she said flatly. Like most experienced dog handlers, Barbara has complete control of her tone of voice: Even though she must have known what to expect from me, she did not sound ashamed, apologetic, defensive, or challenging. Puppy Luv is a Cambridge pet shop that sells my living birthright for a mess of green pottage, lots of green pottage, but pottage nonetheless.   My own control slipped. I may even have yelled. In fact, I'm sure I did, because Rowdy and Kimi, who'd been enjoying a morning doze on the kitchen floor, opened their gorgeous brown eyes and lifted their beautiful heads. Anyway, what I yelled was: "What were you doing there?" Barbara Doyle isn't a pet shop kind of person. In fact, she's a sire-won-the-national-specialty, dam-went-Best-of-Opposite-at-Westminster kind of person.   "Ran out of food," Barbara said, meaning, of course, dog food and not just any old kibble, either, but premium chow. "I know, I know," she added, anticipating the lecture that was already dripping from my lips like drool from the mouth of a Newfoundland. "I got the smallest bag they had. I never buy from that place. The point is, you do malamute rescue, don't you?"   "A little," I said. "Hardly any." I'd placed a few malamutes, sure, but most of my so-called rescue work had consisted of racking up giant phone bills while failing to find good homes for great dogs. Alaskan malamutes are big and strong, and, of course, they shed their coats, but that's not why they're hard to place. All rescue dogs, including all purebreds, are hard to place, all for the same reason: They aren't puppies.   "Well, there's a malamute at Puppy Luv," Barbara said. "I thought you might want to know."   "Damn." Buy on impulse, neglect at leisure. That's the real motto of every pet shop that sells dogs. "Damn it," I said. "Are you sure it's a malamute?"   The question wasn't quite as stupid as it probably sounds. Alaskan malamutes are much bigger and brawnier than Siberian huskies. A malamute's ears are set on the sides of the head, but a Siberian's ears are set high, and a Siberian's ears are fairly large in proportion to the size of the head, too, medium size, not smallish like a malamute's. A Siberian has a fox tail, like a brush, but a mal's tail is plumed and carried over the back. A Siberian has blue eyes or brown eyes or even one blue and one brown, but all malamutes have brown eyes. In brief, the two breeds are nothing alike, totally distinct, impossible to confuse, except--well, except that a great big brown-eyed Siberian husky looks quite a bit like a small malamute with a tail and ears that don't conform to the breed standard.   "According to the sign," Barbara said. "And it's a big puppy."   "Brown eyes?"   "Yeah. I took a good look. I just thought you might want to know."   "I do," I said mechanically. "Thanks."   Now that I knew, I'd have to do something. Or do nothing. Neither prospect felt good. Do you understand why? If so, and especially if you love dogs, stick around anyway, huh? It started that Friday morning in February when Barbara Doyle called to tell me about a malamute for sale in a pet shop. It ended less than a week later. If a dog had died during that time, I'd warn you right now. I promise. I wouldn't want to hear about it, either, you know. I wouldn't ask you to listen. Honest to God spelled backward.   Excerpted from Bloodlines by Susan Conant All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.